Collector's Focus Landscapes - Fleeting Nature
American Art Collector|September 2019

Martin Johnson Heade (1819- 1904) began his career as a portrait painter and studied with folk artist Edward Hicks, who was famed for his Peaceable Kingdom paintings.

John O ’Hern
Heade had a studio in New York with members of the Hudson River School and was a close friend of Frederic Edwin Church. Unlike the Hudson River painters who celebrated the grandeur of the landscape, Heade portrayed simple agrarian life. He painted the tidal marshes of the Atlantic shore from Massachusetts to New Jersey for nearly 45 years. The scenes depict the changing weather and light conditions in a luminous manner with workers harvesting hay in their wagons and making haystacks raised above the tide on wood staddles. The hay was used for garden mulch as well as bedding and fodder for farm animals. Heade’s Newburyport Meadows, circa 1876 to 1881, shows the farmers at work and haystacks on their staddles, a passing shower in the distance.

Andrea Johnson lives in the fertile Salinas Valley on the Pacific Coast. With a climate less harsh than that of Heade’s New England; the area is a productive agricultural region.

Johnson paints the birds and flowers of the area in a manner reminiscent of Heade’s late paintings of hummingbirds and orchids. She often ventures out and away from the intricate detail of birds and flowers, however. “It is how the light falls upon the land that can inspire me to paint a particular scene at a particular time,” she says. “These moments are fleeting, and can often find me sprinting with my camera to the hilltops behind my house or driving up and down River Road to find the exact location where the setting sun’s rays are illuminating a sliver of the Gabilan Mountains under a heavy purple cloud. It is the light that gives this landscape its form… shadows rounding the foothills or creating sharp linear patterns across the fields.”

In Off Foster Road After the Rain, 2019, she portrays one of those fleeting moments after the passing rain clouds have soaked the fields and the setting sun turns them into a symphony of color.

Rick Stevens is a frequent denizen of the aspen groves in the mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. He delves beyond the visible characteristics of the landscape to its mystical core. He says, “My work may be seen as an open window to other realms… I think of nature as a continuous flow of shapes and patterns of energy that has, or more precisely is, an intelligent force. There has been a resurgence in the field of science (especially in physics) that corresponds with the domain of mystics. Matter and energy are interchangeable, all the forces and particles in nature are one, just different ripples on the ocean of consciousness: a unified field.”

In Facing the Mystery, the aspen grove opens up to reveal more than we can see, but embodying what we can feel, what we are part of.

Sometimes the landscape and its context become one. In Flight Into Rain, David Grossmann paints a flock of geese flying above the horizon, headed for a rain shower in which the horizon disappears. Grossmann spends time in the landscape connecting to its “stillness and beauty.” His scenes are impressions of many scenes he has absorbed in his walks, runs and drives through the countryside around his Colorado home. Fascinated by surface texture and the application of paint, he doesn’t begin painting until he has arranged and rearranged the basic shapes into a pleasing composition.

He says, “I like to think of my paintings as prayers and as visual poems. They are simplified rhythms of color, light and shape. On the surface they are quiet whispers, but I hope that they convey a depth of emotion to anyone who takes the time to stop and listen.”

The landscape is fleeting because light on the land—casting shadows and enhancing the mood of the sky and earth—is never the same. Each moment is individual to the instant it was seen. Artists often venture on location to capture these moments in plein air, or make sketches and take photographs to translate the image back in their studio. Some even use their memories or recollections as jumping off points for imagined imagery. This special section delves into all aspects of the landscape—real and make-believe.

Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe represents the landscape paintings of Matthew Sievers. His works often focus on rural landscapes, and the seasonal changes that happen in that area of the country. “Growing up in rural Idaho laid the groundwork for my love of natural landscapes,” Sievers says. “I’ve always enjoyed spending time in the outdoors and have been awestruck by the majesty found in nature. When I create a landscape painting, I want it to pull the viewer in, and for them to feel their emotions stirred by its untamed wildness and serene beauty.”

Edgewood Gallery, with locations in Vermont, Montana and Boston, believes that collectors should feel a connection to the artist’s interpretation of the landscape. Rory Jackson is one landscape painter represented by the gallery. He is devoted to capturing the beauty of the lands and skies where he lives in Vermont. His painting Any Way You Go depicts the drama of the late afternoon light on the mountains and fields in autumnal Vermont.

“My aim is to foster a relationship between the earth and the people who hold covenant with it,” says Jackson. “Whether it is through light, reflection, movement or design, I want to bring everlasting life to a moment in time.”

Located in the picturesque city of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Gleason Fine Art is not short on landscape paintings to offer collectors, including the works of Henry Isaacs. “Henry has always been able to handle a brush, but the Nepal works have a new balance of composition, color and mark-making to me,” explains gallery owner Dennis Gleason. “They feel like they have more energy than ever because they represent the culmination of what he’s been trying to do for the past few years. It’s all been pointing toward this moment, this body of work.”

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